Researchers have found that a single exposure to acute stress affected information processing in the cerebellum - the area of the brain responsible for motor control and movement coordination and also involved in learning and memory formation.
The study was conducted by Iaroslav Savtchouk, a graduate student, and S. June Liu, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans.
They found that a 5-minute exposure to the odor of a predator produced the insertion of receptors containing GluR2 at the connections (synapses) between nerve cells in the brain.
GluR2 is a subunit of a receptor in the central nervous system that regulates the transfer of electrical impulses between nerve cells, or neurons.
The presence of GluR2 changed electrical currents in the cerebellum in a way that increased activity and altered the output of the cerebella circuit in the brains of mice.
"Our results lead to the testable prediction that emotional stress could affect motor coordination and other cerebellum-dependent cognitive functions," said Liu.
Their work has been published in the January 12, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.